Gondar

Kuba Ryniewicz’s striking photographs document a voyage to Ethiopia

Words by Kuba Ryniewicz

My trip to Ethiopia lasted exactly 30 days, which was the length of my visa allowance. Wherever I go my itinerary is always flexible. This allows me to stay in some places for longer and gain a deeper understanding of certain corners of towns and villages. On this occasion the city of Gondar was my main base. From here I took various trip across the north of the country.

I arrived to Addis Ababa on 11th January, 2016. I have to say - it wasn’t love at the first sight. Superficially Addis looks just like any other big city in Africa. It’s dusty and polluted, and due to its high altitude, I experienced difficulties with breathing, which affected my first perceptions of the land. The city itself reminded me of big village - animals are farmed everywhere, even by the airport or modern shopping malls.

I left the capital after 5 days. Since visiting Gondar my love to Ethiopia has grown rapidly. As soon as I arrived in the city a flock of electric blue birds flew over my head. Immediately I knew this would be a place I would stay at for longer than just a few days. Gondar is a beautiful and peaceful city in Amharia. One of the reasons I went there was to attend its annual religious festival, Timkat. Timkat is a celebration of Baptism. Personally I was more interested in the pop aspect of the celebrations – self-made costumes and three days of street dances.

Timkat is not only a religious celebration. Its all about fun - clubs are open the whole night and massive crowd of visitors from all over country dance until dawn. I imagine it to be some sort of equivalent to carnivals in South America. After three days of celebrations the town reverts back to its daily routines. Changes in the dynamic of Gondar over this period are very interesting to observe and photograph.

Whilst staying in Gondar I made a number of visits to locations in the outskirts of the city, including a football stadium. It was an impressive space, which could be easily identified as the main social space for the city’s youth. People were not only playing football, but practicing boxing or sweating in the DIY open-air gym.

When traveling, I like to integrate with locals and their microhabitats as much as possible. I used mini buses to travel across the city and learn first-hand about Ethiopians and their culture.

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